NHSX publishes new digital guidelines on ‘What Good Looks Like’ for NHS trusts

NHSX has launched a new framework called ‘What Good Looks Like’ (WGLL), with the set of fresh guidelines intended to support NHS trusts with digital transformation journeys.

The guidance includes calls for patients to be able to digitally access care plans and test results, the need for new ways of delivering care through remote monitoring and consultations, as well as the potential for the improvement of care through the use of electronic prescribing systems.

According to NHSX, the focused framework will provide NHS managers with “clear, easy-to-use  instructions on what they should be doing to use digital better in their service”. A second publication, which explores how organisations should deal with costs and payment for implementing the digitisation of patient pathways and services, has also been released.

Through this “common foundation”, which NHSX suggests “should be in place across the NHS”, a broad range of areas are covered – including advice on how to use a secure digital infrastructure and ways of ensuring that digital systems are designed to meet the needs of both staff and patients.

Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said: “These two documents will give frontline leaders the essential guidance they need to plan their digital transformation. They set out what they should be driving towards, and how they will need to pay for it.

“They have been produced following extensive consultations with the frontline, and will continue to change as we get more feedback. They are designed to be helpful, empowering and clear.”

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, added: “Over the past 18 months we have all appreciated the immense value of technology.

“This new guidance from NHSX provides a clear direction to all NHS trusts on how to drive digital transformation forward and transform organisations, which will improve patient care and save lives.”

The What Good Looks Like framework, which was published on 31 August 2021, explains the purpose of the WGLL, as well as setting out how it can support leaders and decision-makers, what the new guidelines mean for Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and aims for individual organisations.

It is explained that the WGLL programme “draws on local learning”, by building on “established good practice” so that health and care leaders can enable their organisations to “digitise, connect and transform services safely and securely”, with the ultimate goals of improving patient outcomes, experience and safety.

Directed at NHS leaders, the guidelines have seven “success measures” of what good should look like. These are:

  1. Well led
  2. Ensure smart foundations
  3. Safe practice
  4. Support people
  5. Empower citizens
  6. Improve care
  7. Healthy populations.

The framework states that to achieve these aims, the NHS will support leaders by providing tools for digital transformation journeys, as well as an assessment framework for measuring digital maturity year-on-year, funding, digital expertise and an online knowledge base that will take the form of blueprints, standards, templates, real-life examples and best practice.

The targets around how to successfully achieve WGLL, are then set out for both ICSs and NHS organisations, before a second page, also published on 31 August, focuses on the financial “barriers to investment in digital technology” and how NHSX aims to fix these.

In the ‘Who Pays for What’ proposals, which cover 2021 to 2022 and beyond, NHSX states that it will “consolidate national funding for transformational tech projects into a single fund” and “take steps to support ICSs to make better investments”. This is set to include moving away from “central funding of frontline tech”, and handing ICSs more control over resources and how they are spent.

Problems are highlighted as including “complex funding arrangements”, uncertainty over who funds what, misalignment of priorities, and a lack of visibility, as well as further issues such as a lack of information and measurements.

NHSX pledges to address these concerns through a range of approaches, including bidding through a single portal for ICSs, as well as guidance for bidders, the creation of a ‘calculator’ to help ICSs understand ‘digital debt’, improved data collection, the development of new products, and the potential review and revision of national policies to support digital investments.

From 2022 to 2023, ICS funding is expected to cover a number of areas, including EPRs, cloud services, core kit, cyber security measures, training, system transformation, and more. National funding will focus on national products, infrastructure, and pilots linked to the NHS Long Term Plan.

NHSX is seeking feedback on the full list of proposals, which can be found here. While the WGLL guidelines will be followed by an assessment process, which is set to be outlined by NHSX later this year.